The holidays are a time of giving, and for years Toys for Tots has used the spirit of the season to provide presents and assistance to children in need. With winter fast approaching, the nonprofit is looking for toy donations for children throughout the county.
Toys for Tots is partnering with the Salvation Army, and people can “adopt” a child by picking their name off an angel tree at one of more than 40 sites.
“There are tons of businesses around town that are participating, like Walmart, basically every car dealership, Campbell’s,” program coordinator Shawonna Rhoades said. “People can drop off the toys there or they can take them directly to the Salvation Army, since that’s where they’ll be going anyway.”
Toys can also be dropped off at Prairiland ISD and Aikin Elementary School, Rhoades said.
People have until Dec. 6 to donate toys, or they can bring toys to the Toys for Tots annual winter toy drive at Paris Harley Davidson, 2875, NE Loop 286. The event at Harley Davidson is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 7 and will feature music, games, bounce houses, a Santa Claus, face painting and more.
Rhoades said people shouldn’t wrap the presents, as Toys for Tots volunteers will need to unwrap anything that’s been wrapped in order to black out the price tag and check that the present is in good condition.
Most presents that children ask for don’t cost a lot of money, Rhoades said.
“For the most part, it’s your standard toys for kids, but of course it varies based on the age of the kid and things like that,” Rhoades said. “One big thing that we get a lot of kids requesting is bikes, though.”
Many people like purchasing presents for kids aged 5 to 10, Rhoades said, adding the program has in the past had trouble getting enough volunteers for infants and teenagers.
“If you could take a kid in one of those age groups, that’d be huge,” she said.
Assistant coordinator Richard McIntire said the nonprofit is looking for volunteers to help bag and tag all the collected toys. To volunteer, people can contact Rhoades at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toys for Tots is run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The charity was started in 1947 by Marine Corps Reservist Bill Hendricks and a group of other reservists in Los Angeles. In the charity’s first year, Hendricks was able to donate approximately 5,000 presents to needy children.
Hendricks’s efforts were so popular that the following year, the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots as an official project and expanded it into a nationwide campaign. Today, the organization has more than 700 locations across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Until 1980, the Marine Corps Reservists in the program would collect and refurbish old toys. In 1980, the organization changed its methodology, and began accepting only new toys. According to the Toys for Tots official website, three factors led to the change. First, the Secretary of Defense’s Total Force Program increased drill time for reservists and they no longer had time to refurbish toys. Secondly, public awareness of the health and safety aspects of toys that developed during the 1970s made distribution of used toys legally inadvisable. And third, the Marine Corps felt that distributing “hand me down” toys somewhat counteracted the message of giving they were trying to send.
“This is a great way of giving back to the community and really making sure as many people as possible can have a good Christmas,” Rhoades said. “A lot of things some people might take for granted can go a long way.”